"Like most Canadians, I am indifferent to the visit of the Queen." Thus pretty much ended the Canadian television career of Joyce Davidson, an otherwise admirable presence on CBC's early public affairs program Tabloid in 1959.
Even at the time, I thought that Davidson's misstep had more to do with her presumption that she knew what "most Canadians" thought or felt about almost anything than it did with enthusiasm for the queen, and Gallup poll numbers seem to confirm that reading. (She had also generalized about what Canadians think in front of an American audience, which just made things worse, although it led to a successful career in U.S. television for her.) If there's one generalization about Canadians that I feel safe in making, it is that Canadians hate being generalized about, hate elites who presume to read their thoughts without asking, to put words in their mouths, to define their "values" for them, to claim they just know that Canadians do or don't care about particular issues. You can see where I'm going with this.
Harper had his major Joyce Davidson moment at New Year's, when he smugly opined that Canadians don't care about the Afghan prisoner-transfer scandal, thus provoking the formation of CAPP. The bullying language of "shared values" is never far from the lips of any minister who is unmuzzled for an approved purpose and runs into a little resistance. And now we have the sheer farce of Tony Clement and Maxime Bernier falling back on a few choruses of "The lurkers all love me" in their increasingly pathetic attempts to argue that Canadians not only don't care about the long-form census but actively hate it. (They might have tried appeals to "the silent majority," but Dalton McGuinty has the corner on that one for the moment. Whose idea was it, btw, to send Bernier out to talk about the place of the state in the bedrooms of the nation? Bernier, a man who left state documents in a bedroom?)
So what do Canadians do when the presumptions of the popinjays in Ottawa provoke them to proving once again that we can be a pretty uppity bunch? Well, we write songs, of course. As Tom Lehrer once sort of sang, "They may be winning the battles, but we've got all the good songs." And such a summer of song it has been. Jennifer Smith and friends' ode to Harper's fake lake, "If I had a billion dollars," Alison's musical tribute to the wired little kettling copper bears of the G20 (video still in development, Alison? I know a blogging guitar man ... or should that be a guitar-playing blogging man?). If citizens on the march (or even just passing through) learned to sing that old standby "Oh Canada" with one eye to the nearest exit, there were also those serendipitous moments on the street when they suddenly got rhythm (that one comes with a lap dance).
So this newest addition to the summer song canon should come as no surprise, if a happy and fitting response to the tin-eared tyrants in Ottawa. After all, who but Canadians (ok: some Canadians -- no overgeneralizing offence meant) would think to spend their summer singing the praises of the long-form census? I may even have a little something about the collection of vital statistics in nineteenth-century Ontario up my sleeve after this. I promise: you'll be able to dance to it.
Here are John Campey and the Data Hounds with the census song, "Count Me In."